South Carolina May be Able to Defund Planned Parenthood Thanks to Supreme Court

Recently, the Supreme Court decided an important case, Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County v. Talevski. As we explained hereThe case is significant because it involves legal issues similar to those involved in other cases challenging states’ ability to defund Planned Parenthood, Kerr v. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

You may remember from our previous posting already Kerr emerged after the governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, issued an executive order directing the South Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to deem abortion clinics ineligible to receive Medicaid funding. Planned Parenthood and an individual plaintiff immediately sued in federal court, challenging the state’s decision. Both the district court and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against South Carolina.

Kerr is a critically important case that could have a major impact on states’ ability to stem the flow of taxpayer dollars to the nation’s largest abortion provider – to defund Planned Parenthood.

South Carolina asked the Supreme Court to grant review, and the ACLJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting South Carolina and the states’ right to disqualify Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid health care provider.

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The Supreme Court decided Talevski first. Talevski, which was not an abortion case, involved the interpretation of the Federal Nursing Home Amendments Act (“FNHRA”) – a statute distinct from the Medicaid Act. However, the Court’s analysis of Talevski provided clear guidance to lower courts, including the Fourth Circuit, about how to analyze statutory interpretation issues that are also present in Kerr.

Less than two weeks after deciding TalevskiThe Court issued a decision on Kerr. Here is the technical explanation of what the Supreme Court did: The Court granted review in Kerr but the decision of the Fourth Circuit was vacated (nullified). The high Court then remanded the case (remanded it), ordering the Fourth Circuit to reconsider its earlier decision in light of the Supreme Court. Talevski opinion. This means in plain English that instead of considering the arguments on the legal merits in Kerr, the Court sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit for a “do-over.” The Fourth Circuit should reconsider its earlier decision in Kerr and apply the guidance set out in Talevski in its interpretation of the Medicaid Act.

The good news is that the Supreme Court has, in fact, vacated the problematic Fourth Circuit ruling (it’s no longer precedent), which is what we asked the Supreme Court to do, in part.

Now the question is, will the Fourth Circuit follow the Talevski Court guidance and reach the right decision? We do not know. Will the case go back to the Supreme Court after the Fourth Circuit’s “do-over”? It is quite possible.

What we do know for sure is that the battle to defund Planned Parenthood is far from over and may still be decided in the Supreme Court. We also know for sure that, with your continued support, we will continue the fight against taxpayer subsidization of abortion mills.

LifeNews Note: Laura Hernandez is Senior Counsel at ACLJ, specializing in constitutional litigation at the federal appellate level.

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